Learn how this family-owned company uses strategic planning and continual process improvements to grow its top line, while protecting its bottom line.
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Piantedosi Baking Co.'s third generation, Tom Piantedosi, president and C.E.O.; Joe Piantedosi, Jr., executive vice president, marketing and business development; and Bob Piantedosi, senior vice president, operations, continue to build on the foundation their grandparents started 93 years ago in Everett, Mass. Today, the company operates two facilities in Malden, Mass.
At Piantedosi, much emphasis is placed not only on quality and food safety, but on increasing process efficiencies using innovative engineering techniques — an accomplishment Bob credits to Nada Somasundram, the company's director of engineering. In addition, the bakery has R&D capabilities that enable it to satisfy its customers' needs.
Throughout the past couple of decades, the Piantedosis have consolidated ownership of their company and strategically worked toward ensuring the viability of their bakery. By carefully maintaining a balance between the company's larger, high-volume foodservice customers and the local independents — the backbone of its business — the owners feel they can grow the top line, while supporting the bottom line. And, protecting the bottom line is an important consideration for a commercial baker operating in a capital-intensive industry.
Piantedosi Baking Co. is deeply rooted in the local culture of Boston and its environs, notes Tony Roscillo, C.F.O. Even though he's only been with the company eight years, he became familiar with the company's sub rolls when he was 17 and worked in a sub shop, back when he knew the roll as the Piantedosi roll.
Roscillo remarks on the company's history, noting that each successive generation has learned from the previous one and changed with the times. “It has been nothing short of phenomenal that the third generation has expanded its product nationally,” Roscillo says.
The bakery has made impressive strides since 1916 when Salvatore and Mary Piantedosi started the business by producing and delivering breads and pasta. By the mid-1950s, the Piantedosi family had expanded into a small retail bakery store where it offered its bread, pasta and pastries.
By the 1970s, the bakery was delivering fresh product within a 40-mile radius. Joe Jr.'s father managed the bread business, and his two uncles, the pastry and pasta business. As fresh bread sales increased and pasta and pastry sales declined, Joe's father convinced his brothers to focus solely on fresh bread sales. One of the first pieces of equipment Joe's father bought was a hot dog roll machine he managed to re-construct into a sub roll machine that was capable of producing 6,000 pieces per hour.
The bakery had been operating in a 17,000-sq.-ft., two-story building; 7,000 sq. ft. of which was used for production that accommodated two 9-ft. by 50-ft. tunnel ovens. Because Everett was zoned for retail, Joe's father was proactive in looking for an area that was more conducive to manufacturing and the constant flow of truck traffic.
In 1975, Joseph Piantedosi, Sr. and his brothers opened a 70,000-sq.-ft. bakery at 240 Commercial St. in Malden. The Piantedosi brothers built a small 25-sq.-ft. freezer, thinking all the business was going to be in fresh sales. “That lasted six months,” Joe, Jr. says.
Today, about 57 percent of the company's products are shipped frozen for foodservice accounts. About 42 percent of its products are sold fresh to local and regional markets using independent jobbers. The remaining 1 percent is sold in retail.
In the early 1980s, Joe, Jr. was instrumental in expanding the company nationally. In 1995, Piantedosi opened a second 50,000-sq.-ft., state-of-the-art facility at 129 Commercial St. — a block away from its established plant. To a Piantedosi employee, the facility's respective street number, 129 or 240, helps distinguish one building from the other.
When the company initially moved to Malden in 1975, it was using about 100,000 lb. of flour per week. Today, the bakery uses about 500,000 lb. of flour per week during its peak season, which runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. It averages about 400,000 lb. of flour per week during the winter months.
Production lines in building 240 include two roll lines for subs and hoagie rolls; one soft roll line for hamburger, dinner rolls and deli-style round rolls; one string line for French and club breads; one dough line for frozen dough sales; and an artisan line.
“We're very versatile in building 240, where all lines can interact with one another, so that gives us our flexibility when changing over lines,” says Jerry Savino, director of operations, and a professional baker trained at AIB International, Manhattan, Kan. The versatility of production lines in 240 is helpful because bakeries are dealing with a live product in the form of yeast. “If something breaks down, the dough is not going to wait for you,” Savino says. “You have to make quick decisions and you always have to worry about the customer.”
In building 129, par-baked and fully baked products are made in fluted-style pans using a no-time dough. Dough is mixed in one of two, one-arm mixers, which develops the dough more slowly; or in a two-arm mixer, which develops the dough faster and changes the friction ratio, Savino notes.
Product is baked in pans in one of 13 rack ovens. When you bake directly on a hearth, the process is less forgiving, Savino notes. Moisture loss is typically 10 percent on pans, versus 12 percent on the hearth. Regional preferences can dictate the type of process used.
Lino DiSchino, currently director of R&D and Joe's brother-in-law, joined the business in the mid-1970s to assist with the move from Everett to Malden. He was instrumental in building and running both plants that exist today. DiSchino ran production for 20 years, moved to Florida about 10 years ago, and has since returned to head up R&D.
“Lino's a guy who can fix almost anything; he's really talented,” Joe, Jr. says. “We initially brought him back as a consultant. I had one customer who was requesting a particular product, and I asked Lino if he could produce it. Because he built our plants and he ran production, he knows our limitations.”
The bakery acquired its artisan line for no-stress dough-type products in July — a line that has increased its R&D capabilities substantially. Many of the products are Old World-style varieties made from a starter dough that ferments 12 to 14 hours. After the dough is mixed it rests for three hours, before it is pressed, formed, manually fed to a loader, hand scored and conveyed into a stone deck oven, Savino notes. Eight products are currently produced on the artisan line, from small dinner rolls to the flat ciabatta roll.
When a commercial baker forges into higher volumes, products can easily become commoditized, but R&D has played a role in developing products with distinctive attributes. For example, Piantedosi's hamburger roll is slightly larger than its competitors, and it holds more moisture content because, as a sandwich carrier, its customers expect the roll to hold more juices from the steak itself.
On its subs and French breads, the bakery's claim to fame is its hingeable product. “When you take an edge and you open up the product, my expectation is when you turn it inside out and open it back up, it stays together,” Savino says. “A product that is sliced all the way through has to be served from the bottom up. Our product can be served and eaten from the side, which is what our regional customers expect.”
Great emphasis is placed on production efficiencies, from minimizing waste to streamlining processes. “As a manufacturing company, we do a lot of things within our four walls to be more efficient,” Roscillo says.
In some cases, suppliers can't customize their equipment, so the work is done in-house. In other cases, production lines are built from the ground up. Engineering and maintenance is currently building another baguette line, including all electrical, mechanical, hydraulics and pneumatics. The line also will operate with PLC-based machines.
Engineering also is rebuilding a proofer, while at the same time, adding more capacity to it. “Our goal is to improve the function of the proofer and increase its efficiency. A lot of very precise measurements were involved. We are replacing the bearings and installing 700 ft. of new chain. Capacity will increase from 100 shelves to 110 shelves without adding more steel to the machine,” Somasundram says.
Efficiencies are being improved elsewhere in the plant. Production purchased dough pans for deli rolls and hamburger buns that will hold 20 dough balls instead of 10, which increased capacity by 18 percent, Bob says.
Since both plants are huge energy and natural gas users, much work has been done to reduce waste and find alternate sources of energy. “We have a lot of waste in our heat stacks,” Bob says. “We are looking to see if waste gases can be recaptured to cool plant air or the water jackets on mixers, or possibly pre-heat water in the boilers.”
Electricity usage also has been an issue targeted for cost reduction. During the past three years, all lighting was changed from high-pressure mercury bulbs to fluorescent T5 in both buildings. And, production schedules were rearranged so that the bulk of production takes place at night during off-peak hours. Although energy savings wasn't the sole reason behind the change, it has helped, Bob notes.
The Piantedosis have made several strategic moves to strengthen their company's future viability. “We reached a point where we were growing from a local business to a national business and looked to corporate America for more sophistication,” Tom says. Tony Roscillo, who worked for Gillette for a number of years, but also had operations experience, filled that need.
Although the bakery has continued to acquire higher volume accounts, Tom strives for a balance between the large volume chain business and the local “mom and pops” that are so vital to its business.
“I think one of the things we struggled with as a commercial baker in growing is to maintain the margins,” Tom says. “Joe is very happy to grow that top line, but I'm not happy growing that top line with no bottom line. And that bottom line is what funds the growth. Plus, it's a capital-intensive business. It's a circle that goes round and round. It all has to work. If you're growing the top line, without continuing to develop your margins, eventually you're going to end up in trouble. That's my job to make sure we're going to continue having that margin and that growth and that capital expenditure in the future.”
Slow and steady growth has been and continues to be key to the company's success. At present, the bakery has capacity for expansion, but when that next big volume comes along, it will carefully plan the next phase of growth.
When Joe, Jr. first entered the family business, he had to punch a time clock first thing in the morning, even though he would leave and work in sales. At the end of the day, he would return and punch out. And each of the seven family members working at the time had to work one night a week in the plant, so at least one of the owners would be present. But, times have changed.
Today, the family has consolidated its ownership and considers all of its 225 employees part of its extended family. As a company focused on streamlining its capabilities, it empowers its employees to look at opportunities and do what needs to be done. Cultivating relationships and specialized attention to customer service is emphasized, regardless of whether an employee is dealing with internal or external customers. “You know at the end of the day you're making a positive impact,” Roscillo says. “You really see the results.”
Headquarters: Malden, Mass.
Management: Tom Piantedosi, president & C.E.O.; Joe Piantedosi, Jr., executive vice president, marketing and business development; Bob Piantedosi, senior vice president of operations; Tony Roscillo, C.F.O.; Mike Frazier, vice president of compliance; Lino DiSchino, director of R&D; Jerry Savino, director of operations; Nada Somasundram, director of engineering; Robin Lucier, director of HR; Frank Prinzivalli, director of national distribution; Domenic Savino, Northeast regional sales manager; Palani Nadarajah, director of local distribution and Nikki Hanson, marketing and project manager
Product line: Variety of rolls, baguettes, loaves, subs, French breads and artisan breads
Business channels: About 57 percent national foodservice sales; 42 percent fresh bread sales via jobbers in New England area; and 1 percent retail sales
Plant sizes: 240 Commercial St. (70,000 sq. ft.) and 129 Commercial St. (50,000 sq. ft.)
Production lines: Two lines for subs and hoagie rolls; one soft roll line for hamburger buns, small dinner rolls and deli-style round rolls; one string line for French bread and club bread; one dough line (frozen dough); one artisan line; two lines for dinner rolls and assorted-style sticks and one “span-a-line” for string products, including baguettes and sandwich rolls
Throughput: About 400,000 lb. flour/wk. to 500,000 lb. flour/wk. during peak season
Sales: About $35 million
Number of employees: About 225